Template talk:Inappropriate person

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I think there should not be this template. Simple English wikipedia may use different ways of saying things - we do not need to follow "standard" encyclopedia way. Addressing to "you" is simple language that is easy to understand. The most important thing in language here is that it is easy to understand, not that it follows "standard" way. 193.65.112.51 23:07, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Simple English Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, and encyclopaedic tone should be maintained throughout. Encyclopaedia articles written in second person do not sound encyclopaedic. J Di 23:11, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
What's the point of being more concerned with tone than with readability? There are numerous encyclopedias for young people that are written in the second person. Also, many dictionaries for learners of English (yes, I know they're not encyclopedias) also employ the second person. Let's consider our audience and check our collective ego at the door.--Brett 23:15, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
Readability is exactly what we're concerned about. You may well use "you" frequently in your dialect of English as a colloquialism when the literal meaning is not "you" (the person being addressed). But Encyclopedias, even this one, should ideally be on a higher standard than colloquialisms. Please recall that one of our primary functions, if not the foremost, is as a "translation hub" for speakers of other languages - many of which would never use "you" in this way. It is best to have a straightforward text that translates easily and avoids colloquialisms. Therefore many editors here agree that "you" is best avoided wherever possible, for our purposes. Blockinblox - talk 18:06, 13 August 2007 (UTC)
Here are some examples of how rampant inappropriate use of "you" was before this template. It was often used in the worst possible articles one could imagine.

From drug:

"The amount of the drug you take is called a dose. If you take too much of a drug, you can get very sick or even die. If a doctor tells you how much of a drug (the right dose) to take, you should only take that amount. It is also very important to keep taking the drug until the doctor says to stop, because even if you feel better you may still be sick. When a doctor tells you what drug you need to take, how much, and for how long, it is called a prescription."

From sweat:

"Sweat is water that comes from your body when you are hot."

From art store:

"An art store is a store where you buy art supplies."

From victim:

"If you are robbed, you are the victim".

From wart:

"They can be on your hands, feet, genital areas, or inside your mouth. You can buy products at a drugstore to remove them but usually they will go away on their own."

From enemy:

"If you are trying to kill a person, he or she is probably your enemy. If the person you are trying to kill does not want you to kill them, than that person most likely thinks of you as an enemy."

From suicide:

"Suicide is when you kill yourself."

Allowing this usage is obviously open to all kinds of abuse, since a literal translation into almost any other language produces a perhaps unintended opinion or a POV assumption about the person being addressed.

For example, what if I write: "Scientology is when you believe in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard". A lot of readers probably do not like to read "when you believe in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard" and will say "who, me?" An even more extreme example, that was actually used on the article Homosexuality, says:

"Homosexuality means you are attracted to people of the same gender as you."

This could be seen as subtle POV pushing at a minimum, and extremely poor word choice at best. Many readers do not want to read any statements that even sound like they are make assumptions about them, so this exactly is why the template says "good encyclopedia articles do not make statements about 'you', and are never addressed to 'you'." Blockinblox - talk 18:37, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for your personal point of view about you as a general pronoun being dialectal or colloquial. Here are a number of authoritative sources that clearly contradict your opinion. From the American Heritage Dictionary:
"1. Used to refer to the one or ones being addressed: I'll lend you the book. You shouldn't work so hard. See Regional Notes at you-all, you-uns. 2. Used to refer to an indefinitely specified person; one: You can't win them all. 3. Nonstandard Used reflexively as the indirect object of a verb: You might want to get you another pair of shoes. See Note at me." Notice that 3 is nonstandard, but there are no such comments about 2.
From Merriam-Webster's:
"1 : the one or ones being addressed —used as the pronoun of the second person singular or plural in any grammatical relation except that of a possessive <you may sit in that chair><you are my friends><can I pour you a cup of tea> —used formerly only as a plural pronoun of the second person in the dative or accusative case as direct or indirect object of a verb or as object of a preposition — compare thee, thou, ye, your, yours 2 : one 2a <after a while, it grows on you> "
And from the OED:
"6. Denoting any hearer or reader; hence as an indef. pers. pron.: One, any one." Note that the entry includes examples from Bacon, Swift, & Ruskin.
From The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English, 1996.
"A successful and distinctive writing style is an elusive bird of paradise. It is unmistakable once you see it but difficult to find." (no prohibition or negative characterization)
From The Elements of Style, 1918.
"Omit initial A or The from titles when you place the possessive before them." (no prohibition or negative characterization)
From The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, 1993.
"Indefinite you, used when you’re addressing nobody in particular, as in When you hike in the woods, you take a risk of encountering ticks, used to be criticized by teachers as a misuse of the pronoun, but it is clearly Standard in all but the most Formal or Oratorical uses."
Moreover, when reference materials are appealing to people who have difficulty reading or understanding English, they commonly employ the second person in pursuit of a more engaging and accessible style. Publications following this policy include The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, COBUILD Collins English Dictionary, and The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, all of which are directed at learners of English. Although I'm not aware of any encyclopedias specifically designed for English language learners, there are clearly many for children and they commonly use the second person. A few examples include The Kingfisher Children's Encyclopedia, Scholastic Children's Encyclopedia, The New Book of Knowledge, and The Golden Book Encyclopedia.
The evidence clearly shows that although there are certainly people like Blockinblox for whom the use of indefinite you is a personal bugaboo, it is standard English and there is nothing at all undignified or unclear about it. This is supposed to be the "simple" English wikipedia, not the "stilted" English wikipedia. The second person has its place, and should be allowed to take it.--Brett 20:16, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

"Although I'm not aware of any encyclopedias specifically designed for English language learners, there are clearly many for children and they commonly use the second person. A few examples include The Kingfisher Children's Encyclopedia, Scholastic Children's Encyclopedia, The New Book of Knowledge, and The Golden Book Encyclopedia."

That's great, but we don't present ourselves as specifically a children's encyclopedia. To what extent can that usage of "you" be found in the more scholarly and reputable encyclopedias? I can see where it may be more at home in a "children's encyclopedia", but for us, it can make us sound like a 2nd grade schoolmarm talking down to our reader, on a personal level. Some articles written with a copious amount of "you" can even seem patronizing. The best style to use is one that can be word-for-word substituted into almost any other language and still make sense, avoiding more colloquial expressions and idioms of native speakers - it can be simple, yet still encyclopedic. That isn't just my opinion, I believe it is the consensus most editors have arrived at as our 'in-house' style, and we don't need to go hunting style guides here and there from 1918 that agree with us! Blockinblox - talk 20:49, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

This is pure assertion based on nothing more than opinion and speculation. Blockinblox dismisses out of hand the precedent based on children's encyclopedias as irrelevant (even though children are specifically mentioned as a target audience), but chooses to ignore the relevant dictionaries, which are written for learners of English, Simple Wikipedia's main audience. He claims that use of seems condescending and patronizing. That's his POV. Presumably he is not the intended audience of a simple English reference. Have any members of the target audience ever voiced such an opinion? Even once? I work daily with adult learners of English from all over the world and never once has a single one of them expressed any such sentiment to me.
Why is this a rule here? Apparently because User:Lastofthetribe stuck it into Wikipedia:How to write Simple English articles. He merely asserted that "Good encyclopedia articles are never addressed to 'you'." There was no evidence presented to support this absurdly broad claim, nor was there any discussion regarding it.
  • "The best style to use is one that can be word-for-word substituted into almost any other language and still make sense." There is no such style. Nothing even comes close. Language doesn't work that way.
  • "That isn't just my opinion, I believe it is the consensus most editors have arrived at as our 'in-house' style, and we don't need to go hunting style guides here and there from 1918 that agree with us!" The guidelines call for sources. I've produced numerous authoritative sources, and nobody has produced anything but unsubstantiated value judgments to the contrary. Remember, this thing isn't being written to suit the stylistic whims of a few editors. It's being written to be accessible and readable for "people whose mother language is not English [or who] may be young (they may be children) or have learning difficulties."--Brett 01:51, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

Reply[change source]

"This is pure assertion based on nothing more than opinion and speculation." -- please, calm down! I have merely given my perspective of why it is best in our specific case if we avoid "you" or sounding like we might be addressing the reader in our articles. I have produced numerous instances above of where this was highly problematic. And yes, it is my opinion, and I believe the general consensus, that an article sounds much better, more readable and encyclopedic if it can be written without all of these gratuitous "you"s. "You" could well be appropriate for a children's encyclopedia, I agree with you there. But if we adopt this style, we will look too much like a children's encyclopedia, when we also wish to appeal to adults who do not want to be addressed as children when reading an encyclopedia. So we have to look for the perfect balance of simple and encyclopedic, and I believe it is possible, and we are doing it. I have asked if you could find any instances of one of the major league, scholarly encyclopedias that uses "you". I would not expect to see it that often; it is just too informal-sounding for a serious encyclopedia. My understanding is that as a wikipedia, even a simple wikipedia, we should strive to emulate the style of the best adult encyclopedias, and not the style of children's encyclopedias. We don;t have to go overboard with formality and can be somewhat more informal than our 'big sister', but I think addressuing the article to "you" is somehow crossing the line, and unless consensus swings the other way, it will probably stay that way. Other editors are invited to comment. Blockinblox - talk 17:20, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

Another point to clarify, a lot of our editors, especially newer ones will write the first draft of articles written to "you", and that's fine. It can always be tagged or just improved to a more encyclopedic style by more experienced editors. If an editor is more comfortable writing new articles using "you", I don't want to discourage him, and he should continue to do so, but just don't expect the article to stay that way. Blockinblox - talk 18:03, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

"I have produced numerous instances above of where this was highly problematic." No, you have produced instances where you don't like it. There's a difference. Since there are no encyclopedias written for learners of English it is clearly impossible to produce evidence based on them. I have, however, shown that all the major publishers of reference materials for language learners do employ the second person. Furthermore, after working with second language learners for 15 years, I've never heard anyone complain about such materials. It should be incumbent on those wishing to ban a perfectly normal part of English to justify such a ban with solid evidence, not on those wishing to employ it to explain why it should be allowed.--Brett 19:38, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
As a matter of fact the words added by User:Lastofthetribe to Wikipedia:How to write Simple English articles were based on this template, not the other way around. The template was the result of consensus discussions elsewhere, sorry I can't recall where now but I will look for them. Every time this was discussed the overwhelming preference was always to rewrite articles without 'you', like adult encyclopedias are written. You're right, I don't like articles addressed to 'you', and I doubt many adult readers do, it just seems to be the preference here to avoid it. It is a matter of style preferences, as any project is entitled to delineate for itself without relying on legalistic arguments demanding "references" for every style guideline decision. I said I would certainly reconsider if the consensus should ever change, but you don't get to set rules on what 'should be incumbent' on us to formulate our own in-house MOS. You picked an impressive list of references like you are debating the research on a en.wikipedia article, wow, all almost all discussing American usage (although British usage of the informal, impersonal 'you' is slightly different), the Merriam Webster gives my definition (the person being addressed), the 1918 source is written in 1918 English, is that the best you could find? A grammar book is not quite as "formal or oratorical" as an adult, scholarly encyclopedia, and our aim (I believe) is to be simple yet scholarly in our articles. Blockinblox - talk 20:12, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

One reason the "ban" is in place is that usage of the second person is against the MoS of both the English and Simple English wikis. Ours is just a simplified version of theirs.

Use of the second person (you), which is often ambiguous and contrary to the tone of an encyclopedia, is discouraged. Instead, refer to the subject of the sentence or use the passive voice

—Manual of Style, English Wikipedia